The mathematician Mandelbrot famously wrote: “Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line. In raw nature, very few shapes are simple: the pupil, the iris, the moon—with two hands, you can count all the simple shapes of nature. Everything else is rough. But if you look around us, almost everything industrial is very smooth, round, flat, corrugated, and so on. Now that is changing.” He coined the term “fractals” to explain the “roughness” of physical phenomena in the physical world.

He disdained rules. He called himself a fractalist. He said: “I’m rarely comfortable in a big crowd, because big crowds automatically are very specifically organized by dates, by tradition, by training. And I don’t sound like a mathematician. I don’t sound like a physicist either. Nor do I sound like an art critic. There’s very great strength in being a stranger, if one brings something new.”